Fresh eyes, no lightning

I’ve just come home from my first visit at a Catholic Mass since Easter of 2000. A dear friend of mine was joining the Catholic church, and very much wanted me to be there, and so I was.

(My basic take is that I am happy when people I love find religious communities and lives and connections that enrich their lives, help them deal with the hard times, celebrate the good times, and make some sense out of the rest of it, and I do not care which traditions those happen to be. I am, of course, happier that my friend was doing this in a very social-justice focused parish, and deeply amused that her sponsor and other RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults – how adults become Catholic, basically) folks knew she was inviting a priestess and witch, and were all quite glad to meet me.))

Anyway, it was definitely fascinating, for several reasons.

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A response to “What’s for dinner?”

Dianne Sylvan asked this question inĀ  a blog post yesterday, and I wanted to take time to do a more extensive response – both ’cause she’s a friend, and bec ause it’s part of my “I should talk about this sustainable priestessing thing here” goal for this year and this blog.

So, here goes: this post has a quickish overview of where my food habits are at the moment, where they’ve been over the past 18 months, and some staple meals that seem to be working pretty well for me, even if I’m tired.

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Health and Craft – the personal bit

Hello, dear fearless readers of this blog. I realise I haven’t updated here since May. It’s been a complicated summer, as I’m job hunting again. (Which thus far has involved two trips out of state for interviews, plus all the ordinary stuff like resumes and cover letters and so on. If you know people hiring librarians passionate about connecting people with information they care about in either the Upper Midwest or New England, feel free to drop me a note. )

The other part is something I talked about back in March, which is health issues. And reminded by a letter of introduction from someone potentially interested in group work with me, I thought I’d take a moment to lay out some of my thoughts about the intersection of health and Craft work. This part deals with the personal bit, and my internal observations, part 2 will deal with how I think this impacts group work more broadly.

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Today, I am thirty-four.

Today, some celebrate Mabon, the second harvest festival. So do I, though I prefer the name Harvest Home, these days. A day of bringing in the fruit of our work, of celebrating our labor.

Today is also the second in my personal string of new years. There is the beginning of school: the beginning of a cycle every year of my life since I was born in some way: as the child of a professor, as a student myself, or as someone working in education.

Today is my birthday: the day when night and day balance, when the days truly seem shorter, when my desire to come home and nest and reflect in the quiet competes with the growing work of the school year. They are both good, both necessary, and they continue to dance in their own helix until June. And following that, there comes Samhain (the pause before the dawning sun of Midwinter and a new cycle of potential) and the calendar’s New Year.

And I am reminded, always, of my birthday’s place, falling as it sometimes does between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Neither are my celebrations, but they were the celebrations of some of my ancestors, in the not too distant past. A time to reflect on the things I’ve regretted, as well as walking forward into the new year of blessing and potential.

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Integrating my life

I’m back at work for the school year.

Working for a school definitely has its own yearly cycles and festival days: last night I was at the back to school barbecue for staff and their partners, this morning we had our fall all-employee meeting, book discussion, and then time to get things done in our teaching spaces.

(I come back a week before the faculty: I spent all of last week working with my new assistant to move every single book in our library, in order to rearrange the space. I’m delighted with the result, which we finished today: it’s open, with clear lines of sight and flow between different areas, and the light is even more gorgeous than before. I think we’ve solved a couple of nagging ongoing problems (involving students doing things that were perhaps better undone in corners hard to see around). We’ll see how it works with actual students next week. Best news: the most expensive actual change was about $300, other than taking out a huge elephant of a standing-height circulation desk, so if we decide it’s not working, we can always move things again.)

Anyway, this post is a great example of something I’ve been thinking about a lot this summer: the idea that to be the kind of librarian I want to be, I need to deeply integrate it with my religious goals and commitments.

By this, I don’t mean ‘try and convert everyone to my particular trad” because, ew, no. But I mean that I want to let the me that I am in circle – priestess, teacher, ritualist, creator of intentional and focused space, intuitive listener – come through more overtly in my work life.

I want to anchor and hold a space where learning and inspiration and discovery can happen in a safe way. I want to use the tools I have at my disposal to help me manage the energy and interaction demands of working with 70+ faculty and 500+ students every day. (At least potentially – fortunately, not all of them show up at the same time. But still, as an introvert, that’s a pretty hard gig for me some days.)

I need to balance the parts of the job I adore (helping people find information that matters to them, and helping them learn how to find things themselves) with the parts that are a little less ecstatic: paperwork and budgets and all those other practical details. And I need to have an eye both on each individual day’s tasks, but also on the bigger cycles of my work life: each week, each quarter, each semester, each year – and each student’s experience over the four years most of them are with us.

No small task, any of that.

And I need to figure out a way to do it that means I’m not working 60+ hour work weeks to get everything done (because that’s probably not sustainable for me) and that leaves me energy, focus, and attention to do other things after work (time with friends, writing, coven matters.)

Yeah, I know. I want a lot.

I think it’s possible. I just think it’s a work of magical and ritual creation in and of itself, even before you get down to any specific details or desires or anything else. Simply creating a life, a process, a way of living where this is even a possibility takes some change in me, and some change in what’s around me, and some change in how I look at what I’m doing and when I do it.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of that this summer.

What does that look like?

I’ve started developing daily personal habits that should help. Some of that is personal practice, some of that is trying out some different things that seem to make my body happier.

I’ve created a professional shrine in my back office that reminds me, each time I look at it, of what I’m aiming for. There are things there representing knowledge and learning and inspiration, a cool bowl of water for flow and intuition, and salt to help with grounding and crystalline intensity when that’s needed.

(I’ll take a photo at some point: if you know I’m Pagan, it’s probably obvious what it is, but it’s no more involved or weird than things many other faculty have on or near their desks.)

I wanted very much to make the space my own: that’s what I’ve been working on for the last week and a bit. Moving things around was a lot of work, but I now feel like it’s mine, it has my philosophical stamp on it, in all sorts of little ways.

I’m remembering the power of conversation. My division head (aka the person I directly report to) said something to me in the hiring discussions last spring that stuck with me: that what we’re basically getting paid for (as an independent school with, yes, a substantial tuition cost, though we also give a fair bit of financial aid) is the relationships we develop with students.

Framed in that light, spending 20 minutes helping someone (student or faculty) with a problem isn’t distracting us from our work: it *is* our work. And as I’ve started to build in time to make that easier (by going to the barbecue last night, by knowing I’m going to spend a lot of this week having 5-10 minute chats with a lot of people about their summers), it’s easier to remember that that the human connection and understanding and support are the things to keep my focus on. The paperwork can happen later, if it has to. The people are the bit that matters.

I always knew this, of course – but something about that particular conversation got it stuck in my head in a way that feels really deeply rooted now.

And a physical tool: One of my dear friends (the one I spent the summer helping, in fact) is a jewelry maker by profession. She made me (with a lot of collaboration) a bracelet to help me anchor the kinds of energy flow and focus that I want for this year, as well as to help me with some fairly specific things (like being able to work out in the main library area for most of the day and not feel totally wiped out at the end: teenagers put out a *lot* of stray emotional energy, and I can find it really distracting or draining if I’m not on the top of my form otherwise. Even when I am, it can take focus from being the best librarian I can be, which isn’t really what I want.)

I expect to wear it daily for a month or three, and then work down to wearing it as needed. Not only is it a physical reminder of my goals and intentions (never a bad thing in itself), it’s also an anchor for the specific goals I mention above, and a reminder of the power of integration.

And finally, keeping me honest: I’m doing a presentation to interested faculty a week from Wednesday (as part of our monthly teacher talks) about the integration work. I’ve been very quietly out as Pagan to a number of people for the last year or two, but haven’t talked a lot about what that’s meant.

My talk is going to focus on how working with the natural cycles of our year (both seasonal and school), seeking balance from different kinds of interactions and tasks, and about how some of my religious community skills cross into professional work (group dynamics, intentional space, recognising and creating moments of recognition for different passages), and vice versa (working where I do has *definitely* made me a better teacher in a lot of ways.) And I’m also going to talk about some of the challenges of balancing two demanding sets of skills against each other – something a lot of my colleagues know a lot about.

My hope with this is both that it’ll explain some of the reasoning behind some of the choices I’m focusing on – but also to help get conversation started about some of the broader ideas: balance, compassion for ourselves and others, going beyond the ‘expected’ answers, and all sorts of other things that are core to the mission of the school.